With a swift movement, Bakari lifts himself onto the small communal fishing boat and is helped by Seif to pull the fishing basket out of the water. “This spot is better,” Bakari says as he empties the basket onto the floor of boat. A medium-sized snapper flaps around in the middle of other smaller fish. This is the third basket out of five that the four fishermen from Chale are retrieving this morning. The first two baskets came up with hardly any fish, just a handful of the rabbitfish and parrotfish that are common in shallow waters.
The generally low yield has been a regular dilemma facing this simple fishing community. “I remember ten years ago, the water would be full of sardines. We could not believe our eyes. We would bring so many buckets full of sardines back to the village to dry, sell and use for cooking. These days, there are no sardines,” Seif says.
Kenya’s coastline covers 640 kilometres overlooking the Western Indian Ocean. It is a strategic lifeline for the country’s small fishing communities that reside along the coast and practice small-scale fishing for their livelihoods. In 2015, the World Bank estimated that around 27,000 people were employed by the fisheries sector, including 13,000 artisanal fishers. The sector further supports a much higher number of individuals who indirectly benefit from it, such as traders, and input suppliers.
Chale village, Seif’s home, is nestled in land planted with mango, baobab, papaya and other trees. Baboons roam under the trees and between the simple homes in search of food. From the village, home to approximately 2,000 inhabitants, it is a fifteen-minute walk to Chale Beach, where Seif teams up with Mohammed and Bakari on an early Sunday morning to go out on their daily fishing journey. The tide usually dictates what type of fishing they will be doing and it is a good day for basket fishing. Baskets are filled with sea grass and left overnight in different spots around the shallow waters off the beach. According to Seif, more than 50 fishermen operate from the communal land at Chale Beach.
Dripping with sweat from the heat of the rising morning sun, Seif explains that fish prices vary according to a grading system that is used in the market. Grades A to C cost between US$ 3.00 to USD 1.80 per kilogramme of fish, respectively. The higher the grade, the higher the selling price. On that particular day, with the exception of one snapper, all the fish caught in the shallow waters using the basket fishing method fall in the lower category of prices, generating a limited profit for the most hardworking individuals along the value chain.
The Kenyan government recognises the strategic value of the country’s marine life. Dubbed the Blue Economy, the government has prioritised the sector as a key component of its 2030 development agenda. In 2018, reports estimated that the annual economic value of goods and services in Kenya’s blue economy could be worth approximately US$4.4 billion, beating the tourism sector share by more than US$1.4 billion.
Artisanal fishing like that practiced in Chale makes up the majority of marine fisheries in Kenya. It is estimated that approximately 80 per cent of all marine products come from coastal waters and reefs, while 20 per cent is from offshore fishing. In 2016, the World Bank estimated that artisanal marine fisheries production stood at about 24,000 metric tonnes. Total fish production in Kenya (including inland capture, marine capture, and aquaculture) amounted to about 150,000 metric tonnes with a market value of about US$240,000 million. The contribution of the fisheries sector to the national economy is much larger when the full value chain is considered.
However, weak governance has led to overexploitation and degradation of near-shore fisheries. “Our government officials are corrupt. They allow Tanzanian fishermen to come into our waters and fish using nets that catch even small fish! There is no fish anymore for us to catch because of this corruption!” exclaims Seif.
His observations are confirmed by reports from national and international organisations. A 2018 report by the Kenya Fisheries and Maritime Institute states that most commercial species are on the decline in the Kenyan waters. A media report released in May 2021 describes how increased cheap imports from China, overfishing in shallow waters and the lack of sophisticated tools that would enable fishermen to venture into deep water fishing, are affecting small fishing communities along the Kenyan coast. Unemployment, the lack of alternative livelihoods and open access to shoreline fishing are further exacerbating the problem.
The hardship experienced by the Chale fishing community is pushing community members to find other means of generating income. “Our elders are selling parts of their ancestral lands because they need money. Those lands you see that are fenced are sold, mostly to rich politicians,” Seif explains. Chale is representative of similar neighbouring coastal communities.
Although the Kenyan government introduced plans to manage artisanal fishing in order to address the problem of dwindling fish stocks, compliance with such measures from small fishers remains limited as they depend on the sector for their livelihoods. In effect, while the management of fisheries has been decentralised to Beach Management Units within the coastal communities, and even though villages like Chale have a communal management structure, they do not always comply with the established management plans meant to preserve fish reserves and support livelihoods into the future. Being some of the poorest communities in Kenya, artisanal fishers in villages along the coast instead focus on daily subsistence.
Hundreds of thousands of lives are threatened by the changing waters of the Indian Ocean. But despite the grim reality, Seif and his fellow fishers will continue to do what they learned from their elders in order to put food on the table: go out and fish.
Support The Elephant.
The Elephant is helping to build a truly public platform, while producing consistent, quality investigations, opinions and analysis. The Elephant cannot survive and grow without your participation. Now, more than ever, it is vital for The Elephant to reach as many people as possible.
Your support helps protect The Elephant's independence and it means we can continue keeping the democratic space free, open and robust. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our collective future.
Nairobi witnessed a new wave of protests on Tuesday, 2nd May 2023.
Kenya’s opposition wing led by Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition Leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday May 2nd 2023 staged a new wave of anti-government demonstrations in the country. Here is a sneak peek into how the demonstrations fared across the city of Nairobi.
Anniversary Towers on University Way which houses the IEBC offices remained under heavy security both outside and inside as policed braced for a clash with protesters.
Anti-riot police officers on horse back patrol Uhuru Highway in anticipation of the march by demonstrators.
A heavy contingent of anti-riot police deployed along Kenya International Conference Centre and Supreme Court premises ahead of the anticipated resumption of Azimio la Umoja anti-government protests.
Journalists and media practitioners from various media houses cover the anti-government protests in various streets around the Nairobi Central Business District.
The Nairobi Central Business District remained relatively calm with most residents going about their activities yesterday in spite of the concerns about the protests.
Security remained heightened along all access routes leading to Statehouse Nairobi.
Riders found it hard to access the Central Business District yesterday afternoon as anti-riots police blocked major roads and alleys leading into the city.
Earlier in the day, irate protestors burned down a minibus plying the Ngong-Nairobi route at Posta, along Ngong Road.
A private security guard mans a building entrance along Haile Selassie Avenue which was one of the earmarked routes for protests.
Nairobi: A City of Content Creators
For many youthful content creators that the Elephant interacted with, creating content is a source of income.
On a Sunday afternoon take a leisurely walk along Kenyatta Avenue, Kimathi Street, Muindi Mbingu and Koinange Streets on Sundays. Everywhere you’ll find young Kenyans with their cameras creating content of one form or the other.
Ms. Mercy Lubembe, 20 years old, explained, “Sundays are the days you will witness that Nairobi has beautiful buildings. All this makes videos and pictures look really swanky with amazing backgrounds”.
For many youthful content creators that the Elephant interacted with, creating content is a source of income. Here are some of the photos of what the streets look like on a Sunday.
Maandamano Thursdays in Photos – 30th March
In Nairobi the opposition coalition marked its third day and second week of protests by engaging the residents of Imara Daima, Kware and Mukuru Kwa Njenga. It all started peacefully before turning ugly as the day progressed.
Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga on Thursday 31 March 2023 led anti-government demonstrations across the country. In Nairobi the opposition coalition marked its third day and second week of protests by engaging the residents of Imara Daima, Kware and Mukuru Kwa Njenga. It all started peacefully before turning ugly as the day progressed.
Businesses in the Nairobi Central Business District were open for the better part of the day after security forces managed to lock out opposition protesters for the second time since the demonstrations started.
A lady tries to protect herself from teargas along Juja Road.
A tree that provides shade to Bunge la Wananchi on Jacaranda grounds was cut down by police.
Parents around the Jacaranda grounds rushed to various schools to pick up their children as news spread that opposition supporters were making their way to the area for a political rally.
Protestors barricade the Donholm underpass with stones and tires.
A protestor throws stones at the police in the Quarry area as passers-by try to get away from the scene.
Major standoff between police and protesters in the Pipeline area after a police officer was seriously wounded and a protestor shot and killed.
Some protestors walked away with police shields taken from wounded officers.
To reach their customers in Fedha Estate, delivery riders had to make tough choices after finding themselves caught between the police and stone-throwing protesters.
Kenyans coming from work are caught up in the fracas.
A police officer pleading with protestors in the Soweto area to remain calm.
Members of the press were under constant attack from both the police and the protestors as they covered the protests around the country.
A demonstrator supplying frontline protestors with stones in the Pipeline area.
Protesters cross a police roadblock on Old Donholm Road to join the opposition leaders’ motorcade.
Police provide cover for residents helping to open the road at Donholm.
A protester executing cartwheels on Jogoo Road.
Op-Eds1 week ago
Why President Kagame Should Not Run for a Fourth Term
Politics1 week ago
Africa’s Next Great War
Politics1 week ago
South Africa: Entrenched Divisions over Gaza-Israel Conflict
Politics7 days ago
Coffee Act 2023: Government Grip Over Sector a Perilous Policy Decision
Politics3 days ago
Solidarity Means More Than Words
Videos5 days ago
Title Deals – Episode 5: Beyond the Deals
Op-Eds2 days ago
Changes in Suicide Reporting Welcome, but Slow